The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people. Theodore Roosevelt

Whether you’re just getting your start or have been in business for a while, the benefits of establishing and maintaining strong professional relationships can’t be overstated. Your upward mobility and capacity to get tasks done will be reliant on the relationships you build with coworkers and clients. Any successful businessperson has gotten there by making strong connections and maintaining them with good communication. It’s become a core part of any professional’s skill set.

It’s not always as easy as making a new friend or getting to know a neighbor. The working world has plenty of pitfalls for people who don’t know how to connect with a coworker or client in an appropriate way. Luckily, the keys to success on this front are usable for anyone as long as they’re aware of them. These are a few of the foundational ways upon which strong business relationships are built.

  1. Take the Time

This is something that others will notice quickly, whether you realize it or not. Dedicate some time during your day to relational upkeep, whether having a quick chat over lunch with an officemate or some small talk with a client. It will be well worth the meager amount of time you spend by increasing trust and feelings of amiability. Research has shown that feeling socially connected increases feelings of health and happiness, feelings that your counterparts will associate with you. Even if you don’t get any work done, your relationships will be strengthened by these brief meetings. It shows that you care, not just about what others have to say but about them as people.

  1. Keep It Real

Authenticity is key for maintaining good relationships. Glad-handing and patronizing is no way to get others on your side, and can be easily seen through. Think of the last time you suspected someone was exaggerating or stretching the truth with you. Did it make you want to keep talking to them? Consumers have reported being 85% more likely to do business with companies they perceive as honest. Being yourself can also mean sharing some more personal thoughts than you usually might, but there are some potential pitfalls to that approach, so use your judgment and don’t overdo it. If used sparingly, a greater openness makes for more durable professional relations.

  1. Stay Flexible

While it’s valuable to have set plans and frameworks for your business initiatives, your agenda might not always line up with what others see as necessary. Keeping your mind open means that you’re always amenable to changes and compromise, and you demonstrate a willingness to accommodate other points of view. Always remember that even if you’re in charge on a particular project, every member of the team will be well-served by having his or her opinion heard. Feeling their worth makes others happy to work with you, something that will always be beneficial.

  1. Listening is Learning

Active listening means making every moment of a conversation count. You might often be simply waiting for your turn to speak, but this isn’t the way to show your counterpart that you value their time in particular and your relationship in general. Leadership and listening go hand-in-hand, and the ability to listen is 50% of effective communication. Even if no follow-up questions are completely necessary, ask one or two just to demonstrate that you are keyed into the subject at hand, whatever it may be. If necessary, prepare some of those questions beforehand. Along the same lines, meaningful (not simply unbroken) eye contact tells your conversational partner that you at least acknowledge that what they have to say is important.

  1. Keep It Simple

Nothing will frustrate the people you do business with more than a lack of clarity in your communications. There’s a reason “straight shooter” is a high compliment. Take the time or have a trusted advisor look over your words to ensure that everything is clear and not weighed down with buzzwords and business-speak. People will appreciate that you ensure that all of your communications are clear and understandable. Think of it like any relationship. Communication is key, so don’t underestimate its value.

  1. Take the Initiative

One powerful quality to set yourself apart from the average is a perpetual willingness to pitch in and help. Showing your concern in a concrete way, not just offering generic assistance, demonstrates both your thoughtfulness and your reliability. Your empathy is a key asset in this regard. If you see someone struggling with a project, take the time to help them out. It’s something he or she will remember and value. Trust is a powerful thing when building relationships in the business world, so having the trust of others will greatly expand your potential.

  1. Show Your Appreciation

You might think that you have a way with words, but the inability to say “thank you” will be a major roadblock in developing work associations. Your professional counterparts are most likely working just as hard as you are, and a little acknowledgement goes a long way. Especially if you’re dealing with subordinates, being generous with praise and appreciation keeps morale high and will engender good feelings among all, including yourself. Think about giving out gifts and bonuses for larger achievements. Someone who brings joy to others is one who will enjoy the benefits of the improved connections that will come as a result.  

  1. Take the Heat

On the other side of that coin, there will be times when you are in the wrong and may make some vital mistakes. Even if it regards something minor, you’ll get the same relational benefit by owning up to your mistakes. Refusing to admit fault will never earn you the respect of others, and potential relationships will suffer dearly for it. Don’t leave people waiting for an apology. Own up and move on–your peers will be glad you did.

Some of these keys might seem simple, but it’s impossible to understate how often they get overlooked in the course of business. Making the effort to strengthen relationships very often comprises the difference between being a trusted associate and just another contact. Making a good impression on others, no matter what you actually do, is a part of your job. Do it correctly, and your prospects are endless.